Daily Israel Report

Ya'alon: History Will Judge the U.S. on Iran

Strategic Affair Minister Moshe Ya’alon places the responsibility on the United States if Iran realizes its nuclear ambitions.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/24/2012, 3:15 AM

Moshe Yaalon
Moshe Yaalon
Israel News photo: Flash 90

As the debate continues over Iran’s nuclear program and a possible Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities, Strategic Affair Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday placed the responsibility on the United States if the Islamic Republic realizes its nuclear ambitions.

“History will judge whether the United States stood in the face of the Shiite threat and prevented the Iranian military nuclear capability in time,” Ya’alon said during a forum at the Gordon College of Education in Haifa. “A Middle East with a nuclear Iran is a Middle East with nuclear chaos.”

He added, “A nuclear Iran is a threat to world stability, and anyone who is concerned for the stability of the world should oppose a nuclear Iran, The challenge of Iran is not just an Israeli one; the Iranian regime challenges the Western civilization and the current world order. This is not a conflict between Iran and Israel, but between Iran and America and Western culture. This issue cannot be taken off our agenda and be swept under the carpet.”

While Minister Ya'alon refused to say whether he is for or against an Israeli attack, he hinted that the diplomatic efforts must be exhausted.

“The decision between a bomb and bombing comes at the end of the process,” he said. “Diplomatic isolation, more sanctions, a credible military threat – these need to do their job. If the Iranian regime will face the dilemma of having to choose between a bomb and survival, it will choose survival.”

Ya’alon emphasized, “I have gone through many wars and war is the last option. But when you recognize that in this matter there were quite a few moments of weakness from the Western world, and it was perceived as such by the Iranian regime, it is necessary to raise the issue.”

He also criticized the statements of former top officials in the defense system, such as former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who said that Iran does not yet possess a nuclear weapon capability. Other former officials have said outright that Israel should not strike Iran.

“I was very sorry to hear the statements by those former officials,” said Ya’alon. “I'm in an environment where decisions are made rationally and not in a messianic way. I didn’t like some of the recent statements, including the ones from ministers who are currently serving in the government. I suggest we stop the chatter about Israel’s options.”

Israel and the U.S. are disagreeing regarding the path that should be taken to deal with the Iranian threat. While Israel appears to be in favor of an attack, the U.S. has made it clear that it believes there is still time for diplomacy.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Wednesday, “We believe there is still time for diplomacy to work, but we need to see a better effort from the Iranians to answer the concerns that we’ve had. So, we are focused on trying to have this dual-track policy of diplomacy backed by pressure work, and we are still focused on that.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said this week that Israel and the United States view the Iranian nuclear threat differently.

“Israel sees the Iranian threat more seriously than the U.S. sees it, because a nuclear Iran poses a threat to Israel's very existence,” Dempsey said, adding that he and his Israeli counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, regularly confer on the issue.

“We speak at least once every two weeks, we compare intelligence reports, we discuss the security implications of the events in the region,” said Dempsey, adding, “At the same time, we admit that our clocks ticking at different paces. We have to understand the Israelis; they live with a constant suspicion with which we do not have to deal.”

On Thursday it was reported that Iran has accelerated its activities at the Fordo underground nuclear site near Qom.

The information, revealed by international diplomats, comes several days before the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is set to publish a new report on Iran’s nuclear program. According to the diplomats, the report will say that Iran has installed new centrifuges at the Fordo uranium enrichment facility.